Where’s Lyerly? On ballot, but nowhere to be found
By Jessie Burchette
Where’s Laura Lyerly?
Have you seen Laura Lyerly?
Those may be the two most often asked questions in Rowan County political circles.
The 29-year-old Democratic candidate for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners has virtually vanished since her May 6 primary win.
Lyerly, a valedictorian at North Rowan High School and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate, was a no-show last week at the county fair, which is seen as a must for local candidates.
She also was a no-show at the recent NAACP forum, and she kept a Rowan County Chamber of Commerce committee waiting ó and never showed up for a session scheduled at her convenience.
Repeated efforts by the Post to contact her have failed.
Dick Huffman, Lyerly’s attorney and the attorney for the county Democratic party organization, did not return calls from the Post.
Huffman told the Rowan County Board of Elections on July 25 that she was traveling out of state.
According to her mother, Paige Lyerly, Laura is continuing to travel out of state.
Lyerly’s absence has become a hot topic around the county.
John Morrison, president of the Rowan Fire & Rescue Association, said recently she has become an invisible candidate.
“When you’re running for something, you have to get out there and be visible and vocal,” Morrison said. “If I was running for office, I would have been at the fairgrounds every night last week.”
The Steering Committee of the Fire & Rescue Association may be the last group Lyerly is known to have met with.
Morrison said after several calls, he worked out a session on a Friday evening at Bostian Heights Fire Department a couple of months ago. They covered a broad range of of topics. “We’re interested in the county moving forward. She’s very intelligent. She had good answers,” he said.
Since then, Morrison said nobody he knows has seen or heard from her. “She’s totally a strange candidate. I’ve never seen anybody run for office that is invisible.”
Local Democrats are among the ones wondering about Lyerly.
Genoal Russell, Rowan County Democratic chairman, said recently she gets calls from people wanting to know how to get in touch with Lyerly.
She doesn’t know of anyone who has in the past few months.
And Lyerly hasn’t provided any materials for the county Democratic headquarters at 121 E. Innes St.
She didn’t show up for the headquarters opening and didn’t attend the annual picnic at Sloan Park.
On May 6, she chose not to attend the traditional vote watching at the Cohen County Administration Building and stayed out of touch for weeks. She said later she was overwhelmed by phone calls and didn’t know how to handle it.
In a May 28 interview with the Post, Lyerly said she planned to revamp her schedule and attend more events around the county.
At that time, she was working toward her master’s degree at UNC-Greensboro and managing her family’s properties.
Raymond Coltrain, the other Democratic candidate on the ballot for county commissioner, is actively campaigning all over the county. He is concerned that Lyerly’s disappearing act could hurt his chances.
Coltrain said he gets a lot of questions about her. “The last time I saw her was in May,” he said.
“When people ask me about her, I tell them I have no idea,” Coltrain said, adding that his campaign is about “me, myself and I.”
Coltrain and the two Republican candidates, Carl Ford and incumbent Jim Sides, all accepted the Chamber of Commerce’s invitation to sit down for an hour or so for separate discussions with a committee.
Bob Wright, president of the Chamber, said it took a few calls to make contact with Lyerly.
They scheduled the session at her convenience. All of the Chamber committee members showed up ó and waited. Wright said Lyerly never arrived and has never called to offer an explanation or reschedule.
The Chamber has invited her to a forum on Oct. 23 at Catawba College. “We’ve heard from everybody except Laura,” Wright said. There will be a seat and name plate in case she decides to show up.
The Rowan County Elections Office is also fielding calls about Lyerly.
Nancy Evans, elections director, said people have called asking how to get in touch with Lyerly.
The cell phone number provided to the Board of Elections answers with the message that the mailbox is full.
For months, Lyerly shared intimate personal details in writings on her My Space account page, which was public. The information included life situations that a candidate for public office would not typically disclose. But that account is no longer public.
Speculation abounds whether Lyerly lives in the county.
Her official residence listed with the Rowan County Board of Elections is 8655 U.S. 601. The property is owned by her grandmother, Olive Fowler, and her late grandfather, George F. Fowler.
The 11-acre parcel is two-tenths of a mile south of the Yadkin River. A two-story white frame house on the property is listed on the county tax books for $16,238.
Lyn Wilson, who lives near the Fowler property, said Lyerly lived there in the spring and early summer.
Neither she nor her husband, Alfred, has seen any sign of anyone at the house in recent months.
According to voting records, Lyerly first voted in the Franklin precinct, registered at the U.S. 601 address, in the May 6 primary.
Prior to that, she was registered in Salisbury’s North Ward, where she ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2007.
In the 2002, 2004 and 2006 general elections, Lyerly was registered in the Hatters Shop precinct and voted at the Union Fire Department, near her parents’ home on Old Union Church Road.
Lyerly’s parents and grandmother, Olive Fowler, were involved in a head-on collision on Stokes Ferry Road on Christmas Day 2006.
Her father, James Brown Lyerly, died at the scene. Her mother, Paige, and grandmother were seriously injured and required months of treatment and rehabilitation.
Paige Lyerly said the family is not giving out information on Laura, but added that she is traveling out of state.
Huffman, Laura Lyerly’s attorney, also told the Rowan County Board of Elections hearing on July 29 that she was traveling out of state.